Posts Tagged ‘J-school’

Post-Grad: Part 2

May 22, 2011

Well, it’s official. I’m a graduate. Again.

Last week, I stood on stage at Gammage Auditorium as Associate Dean Marianne Barrett placed a graduate hood over my head. I walked across the stage in ludicrously high heels and shook the hand of Dean Chris Callahan and then made my way to my mother, Associate Dean Kristin Gilger, who handed me a diploma — and a very big hug.

After two long years of writing, shooting, laughing, crying, running in heels and sometimes falling on my face, I now have a master’s degree in journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

My post-grad life is about to restart. And so is my post-grad blog.

I will wake up tomorrow morning, drink a large cup of coffee and then pack up my life in Phoenix. I’ve been grinding my teeth a lot lately. I think it has something to do with this impending reality — not the coffee, leaving Phoenix. See, there is nothing I want to do less.

Last month, I found myself sitting in a tiny room inside a shop in Sedona with my two best friends and a woman named Ashiko. She had a vague Eastern European accent, round glasses and three decks of Tarot cards. Now, as a Catholic, I don’t believe in this kind of thing — fortune telling or auras or palm readings. But, as a Catholic, I was also raised with an innate respect for — and fear of — anything that hints of the supernatural and superstitious. So, as I should have expected I would, I believed every word Ashiko said.

She read me like the open book I am, and we spent the majority of our time talking about my career. Where will I go when I graduate, she wanted to know. I did too. So, I pulled a card for each place I might end up — New York, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, New Orleans. They were all promising, she said. There were cards with words like “Power” and “Prosperity” on them. Nothing ominous at all.

Then, I asked Ashiko if I could pull one more. “What if I stay in Phoenix?” I asked, and flipped over a card.

There was a picture of a Gollum-like character on it gripping onto the bars he was trapped behind. “Clinging to the past,” the card said.

Out loud, I laughed at the cryptic message on the card. In my head, I was shouting at Ashiko and all of her supposed wisdom about my life. My life. What did she know, anyway?

I left the shop secretly devastated by that card — not because the card would somehow force me to leave Phoenix, this city that I love with its mountains, heat, space and my friends and family within its boundaries. I was devastated by that card because I knew what it said was true.

Tomorrow, I will wake up, drink a large cup of coffee and then pack up my life in Phoenix. I’ll spend the summer in Europe and New York City. I’ll become a Carnegie fellow at ABC News under Brian Ross’s investigative unit. I’ll apply for jobs all over the country — the world, really. I’ll convince myself I’m ready for another adventure and I might actually be ready for one by the time I start it.

But, all the time, wherever I end up in the coming months and years, I’ll know that I was devastated when I saw that card.

After a lifetime of moving from place to place, the last occupied always became my new answer to the question, “Where are you from?” In Oregon, I was from Louisiana; in Phoenix, from Oregon; in New York, from Phoenix; in Paris, from New York. Then, I moved home. Now, I will always be from Phoenix.

I was devastated when I saw that card because I knew what it said was true.

That’s how fortune telling works, after all.

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One Week in Mexico

March 24, 2010

There comes a day in every journalism student’s life when they get in over their heads.

Mine came last week.

As part of my graduate program, I’ve spent the last four months working on one, huge story about women on the border. I’ve studied the issues, talked to every lawyer, advocate, professor, official and agent involved in the issue. I’ve read every report and article about it. I even analyzed a database of coroner’s reports. But it wasn’t until I met one woman — a girl, really — on the border last week that I really got it. It was the day I realized I was in over my head.

But there also comes a day in the course of every story when you realize that you’ve nailed it. For me, it came at the same moment when I realized I was in over my head. There’s this kind of sniff-it-out, animalistic sense that they try to cultivate in you as part of your j-school education. It goes something like this: You’re sitting in a shelter in Nogales talking to someone and they say something off-the-cuff about their sister and an alarm goes off in your head — “that’s a story!”

Problem is, it’s usually something rather morbid — exposing hypocrisy or uncovering an injustice or the dirty underbelly of…well, anything. Maybe this is why the general public respects journalists about as much as car salesmen or lawyers. Maybe it’s also why we have the amazing opportunity to make a difference.

When you sniff it out for the first time, it’s something like biting into a plum that looks ripe but is still sour. It’s hard to swallow, until you remember that there’s a big picture — until you remember that people need to hear this story. It will make a difference.

This is the difference between journalists and everyone else.

I majored in Visual Arts at Fordham. I spent two years in a dark room learning about photographic composition and form. My professor was a successful photographer in the New York art gallery world.He told us once that on 9-11, he walked outside of his apartment but couldn’t bring himself to shoot that day. He just had to take it in, he said, without his camera.

When I told this to my mother, a lifelong journalist, she was incredulous. “How could you not shoot on 9-11?” she asked. At the time, I agreed with my professor.

Last week, though, when a volunteer was stitching up that girl’s hand where she cut it from falling in the desert, I took the shot.

Women in Journalism (and Bob Dylan quotes)

November 13, 2009

That’s the name of my Mom’s last PowerPoint presentation for her JMC110 class (minus the Dylan parentheses). That’s the last hour-and-a-half-long lecture she gave to 125 squirming Freshmen.

I sat in on it because I didn’t know who Ida B. Wells was, and it got me thinking.

That PowerPoint was chok-full of MegaWomen, and students cited their favorites — Christiane Amanpour, Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Barbara Walters. And that classroom was absolutely full of young women. (I won’t mention the fact that some of the young men in the class cited Erin Andrews as their favorite woman journalist “because she’s hot” — oops, I mentioned it).

I am in a graduate program in journalism right now that has 19 young women in it, and one guy. One. You know what I have to say about that? The times, they are a-changin’ my friends.

Let’s take a quick look at the newspaperman past: (I’m going to dress up like this for Halloween one year)

newspaperman

Now, a look at the newsman — past (and present):

newsmen

There’s no way of knowing if this is just us Cronkite…ah…ites who are witnessing first-hand the changing of guards of the journalism profession. And it’s purely anecdotal from my point of view, but things seem to be shifting. All colleges around the US are 60-40 women on average and the trend doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. (Anyone know what the classes look like at other j-schools around the country?)

There are two questions that come to mind with this: 1) When did journalism become a woman’s field? and 2) Will we still have to spend most of our lives on morning television before we finally getting the job we’ve always deserved?

And I can make two guesses in answer to those questions: 1) Probably about now, and 2) There likely won’t be morning television jobs to giggle through for the next 20 years.

OK, I thought of three questions: Does this, perhaps, have something to do with the concurrent (and complete) demise of the news industry as we know it? There’s a theory I learned in my Freshman year Sociology class that blew my mind at the time. It said that necessary, subservient, under-appreciated, jobs — teaching, nursing, office management — have become women’s jobs in order to maintain the patriarchal social structure. Or, the social structure forced women into subservient jobs…etc. (Chicken or egg?)

I can’t help but think it at least timely (at best ironic) that more and more women are becoming journalists at a time when all that’s left of the journalism strongholds are a lot of (male) executive editors who watched from their corner offices as innovation was laughed away and the Internet blew up their business model.

And then there are the ones who stood up to the publishers and those who are working now to help the next generation innovate — many of whom are now my professors.

No, in the future, the face of journalism will look probably look more like this:

newwomen

Oh, and this (the one guy):

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Well, I agree with Dylan in this case: Don’t think twice, it’s all right.

(Thanks to Lisa in Phoenix and Grant’s facebook for the photos)

My Mom is in Facebook Purgatory.

October 7, 2009

Mom3

She’s done it twice now: Requested to be my friend on Facebook.

The last time she tried was years ago — sometime when I was probably a sophomore in college and therefore way too cool to be friends, let alone Facebook friends, with my mom.

And then last week, out of nowhere, after years of peaceful, not being Facebook friends (punctuated only once or twice a week by a comment from her about the fact that I refused to be her friend), she did it again!

So, my mom is in Facebook purgatory — that feared place where you get no answer from your friend request. She’s just sitting on my requests page. And I’m leaving her there. Until I make up my mind what to do with her, at least.

This time, it’s not because I’m too cool for my mom. Now I realize that she’s probably too cool for me. No, this time, I’m leaving her in Facebook purgatory on principle.

What principle? The one that says: That is just not what Facebook is for.

Now, I’m aware that Mark Zuckerberg would probably disagree with me, seeing as how he opened Facebook up to everyone and their Mom (literally) not too long ago. And it’s not that I think that was a mistake. It’s that I never thought my mom would join — or anyone’s moms, for that matter.

I’m aware that my this post makes me immature; I know it makes me seem like I have something to hide. (I promise, I really don’t.)

You see, I am of the (only) generation that remembers what it felt like to get that college email address and finally be able to join Facebook. It was a big, fat deal to a high school senior. It was liberating. It meant you were really in college now (even though you still had 2 months left of high school).

This goes against everything Jeff Jarvis says about the free and open internet. But, I’m not in opposing the fact that anyone should have a Facebook, I’m just in opposition of my Mom using it to figure out just what I’ve been up to for the last four years in college.

I’m not paranoid, I promise. I have a Mom who spent most of her life as a reporter. She wants to know everything about all of her children, and she will find out. She once found my sister at a hostel in Florence, drunk at 2 am. Seriously, my sister walked in the door (tripped is probably more like it) and the Italian guy at the front desk says, “Dana? Your mo-zer ees on thee phone.”

Like I said, that is just not what Facebook is for. It’s not for networking, or job-hunting or growing a virtual garden. It’s for friends — friends that I would not keep in touch with otherwise, friends I can’t see everyday (and, yes, it’s for tracking who’s getting married  and who dropped out and who’s dating and who broke up).

Facebook is for not forgetting birthdays and petitioning your school to have Stephen Colbert as your graduation speaker. In the words of another recent college graduate who finally accepted his mother’s friend request this summer, “it’s for picking up chicks.”

But, with the way things are going, it looks like I’ll have to give in sooner rather than later.

They say there is no privacy anymore, that headhunters and college counselors will find your facebook no matter what restrictions you’ve put up — and not hire you because of drunken pictures of you in Vegas or at a highlighter party, or drinking wine on a metro in Paris. They say that the world is online and online is open and you’d better open up to it or you’ll be left behind. At least, that’s what they’re telling us in J-School these days: Be public, be open, be linked, be your own brand.

Yes, it looks like I’ll have to open up, to be public and to let even my mom be my facebook friend.

–Eventually. She’s staying in purgatory for now.

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